Conference Abstracts

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Centralising older people’s concerns in social policy agendas

McDonald, T. A., 2009

Nursing Research Conference, Adelaide


Background: Policy environments, within which older people and their health and social needs are considered, are often driven by political, regulatory and academic commentary about older people rather than with them. Outcomes of policy and implementation processes influence social choices and health opportunities; and the way older people perceive themselves and their place in society.

Objective: This presentation critically examines how patriarchal societies encourage older people to be acquiescent rather than assert their choices; and to suggest ways in which older voices may be encouraged and heard throughout policy development processes in Australia and internationally.

Methods: Drawing upon insights gained at the United Nations World Expert Group on Ageing (2007) and on Social Integration (2008) and experiences in policy development activities at the national level in Australia, themes of policy argument derived from different vested interests that have significant impact on policy outcomes that affect the lives of older people were identified. Qualitative analysis of social movements in Westernised societies will be presented as evidence of what is possible when those most affected by policy have direct input in its development. Issues arising from budgetary decisions highlight the risks when ‘ageing’ is converted to ‘aged care’.

Results: The majority of older people live within their communities yet policy and funding emphasis is placed by politicians, academics, professionals and service providers on a relatively small group of people who may or may not require future health and institutional support. Policy driven funding allocations which focus on interest group lobbying on their issues are in danger of marginalising the vast majority of older people in society who are not usually organised in ways that enable their voices to be heard in policy forums.

Conclusions: Ageing as a public issue has status in China, United Kingdom, Europe and Japan however in Australia the danger lies in placing ageing within an economic frame that drives public policy on aged care. Internationally there is consistency on aged care service systems and structures, however there is far less consistency around policy goals on ageing. These big picture’ policy trends translate into attitudes within our society towards older people who have little or no opportunity to be consulted or heard on issues that have the potential to shape their lives and options.

CITATION McDonald T. (2009) Centralising older people’s concerns in social policy agendas. 4th International Conference on Community Health Nursing Research “Health in Transition: Researching for the future” 16-20 August, Adelaide.


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